Dr. Anthony Fauci gave his likely last appearance at the White House briefing on Tuesday as he prepares to leave the federal government after a more than five-decade career.
The face of the federal government’s COVID-19 response who has had a 50-plus-year career in federal service used his likely last appearance at the White House podium on Tuesday to encourage Americans to get their updated booster shot as the nation heads into its third pandemic winter.
In December, Dr. Anthony Fauci, 81, will be leaving his positions as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation and chief medical advisor to President Biden in order to “pursue the next chapter of my career” he said in a statement back in September. Fauci has served under seven presidents––both Republican and Democratic––and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for his work to advance treatment and understanding of HIV/AIDS.
“Although COVID is really, really very important, it is a fragment of the total 40 years that I've been doing it,” Fauci said during the White House briefing on Tuesday afternoon when asked what he wants Americans to remember about him, noting he has been at the National Institutes of health for 54 years and has been director of NIAID for 38. “So, I'll let other people judge the value or not of my accomplishments.”
However, he wants people to know that “every day for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have and I've never left anything on the field. So, if they want to remember me, whether they judge rightly or wrongly what I've done, I gave it all I got for many decades.”
Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said “I would argue, [Fauci] has been the most important, consequential public servant in the United States in the last half century and a leader and a role model for so many of us.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commended his leadership, saying, “our country is stronger and healthier” because of it.
When asked about the questionable and dubious messages coming from the White House in the early days of the pandemic, which was during the Trump administration, Fauci said, “Well, you remember, if you were around, that at this podium I contradicted those, which set off a whole series of things in my life.”
Fauci’s work on the pandemic response and contradicting of Trump officials led him to simultaneously become a national celebrity, while also facing threats and calls to be fired, an action President Trump floated at one point.
“The way you counter misinformation and disinformation is to do whatever you can as often as you can to provide correct information,” Fauci continued. “The people who have correct information, who take science seriously, who don't have strange, way-out theories about things but who base what they say on evidence and data need to speak up more because the other side that just keeps putting out misinformation and disinformation seems to be tireless in that effort.”
As for potential investigations by House Republicans in the new Congress, Fauci said, “If there are oversight hearings, I absolutely will cooperate fully and testify before the Congress, if asked.”
House Republicans, including Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who is the likely next chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has said many times the origins of COVID will be one of his top priorities and will be targeting Fauci specifically.
Fauci noted that he’s testified before Congress several hundred times over the last four decades. “I have no trouble testifying,” said Fauci. “We can defend and explain and stand by everything that we’ve said. So, I have nothing to hide.”
In a September interview with Government Executive, Fauci said his advice to young federal scientists is to “stick with the science, stick with the evidence, stick with the public health issues and stay out of politics.”
In regard to the new bivalent COVID booster, on Tuesday he stressed that it is safe and effective. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78.5% of U.S. adults have completed their primary vaccine series, but only 13.1% have gotten their updated booster.
What “may be the final message I give you from this podium -- is that: please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community.”